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2013 AMA Supercross Anaheim 1 Race Report
Millsaps pulls off a surprising upset in the season-opening round at Anaheim
The opening round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series is always full of excitement, and this year was no exception. All of the top riders were back in action and healthy for the first time in several years. Ryan Villopoto was the odds-on favorite, but several other riders are expected to battle for wins this season.
Chad Reed was back after suffering a season-ending injury in Dallas last season as he battled for the title. Ryan Dungey is also considered a major threat, having given KTM several wins last season. Dungey and KTM also created a lot of excitement in the pits when they showed up to Anaheim Stadium with an air shock that they kept very tight lipped about. Then there was also the return of James Stewart after recovering from injuries, and many expected he would maintain his win-or-crash style that has brought him so much success and so much pain. But few could have predicted how the main event would turn out.
The track design was rather unusual in the fact that it had a lot of step-faced obstacles that broke up the rhythm. Combined with smaller-than-normal whoops and wide bowl turns, the course built by Rich Winkler and his Dirt Wurx crew provided a lot of passing opportunities.
“We want to make something exciting for fans, but we don’t want the course to be so aggressive that riders get hurt,” said Winkler. “This is still really challenging and I think it will make for some great racing with a few obstacles that are a little different than normal.”
The first big surprise of the night came in the heat races when Davi Millsaps straight up blitzed passed James Stewart in the whoops. It’s one of the few competitive passes that have ever been put on Stewart where he wasn’t able to respond. Stewart tweaked his knee at the end of practice after setting the quickest lap on his new Suzuki, but he said it wasn’t going to be much of a factor.
“I don’t think I did any serious damage,” said Stewart, “and I’m sure once I get on the line and the adrenalin starts flowing, that I can ride through whatever pain it causes.”
Millsaps went on to win his heat race and Team Honda’s Justin Barcia used a perfect start to win his qualifier despite a late-race attack from Ryan Villopoto. “I could feel him coming after me, but I just tried to calm myself down and focus on laying down consistent laps,” said Barcia.
But the biggest surprise of the night occurred in the Main event when Millsaps holeshot the 20-rider field ahead of Trey Canard, Barcia, Dungey and Reed, while Villopoto was buried outside of the top 10. Villopoto would later go on to make three big mistakes, twice ending up on the ground, and would end up riding half the race without goggles and only managing 16th place points.
The top three stayed the same for the first 16 laps while Josh Grant, Jake Weimer and Andrew Short battled it out for sixth. Another surprise was the fact that Millsaps and Canard were able to battle up from without any of the favorites in play. In fact, Canard and Millsaps were never more than 10 bike lengths apart the entire evening.
Millsaps maintained the advantage until the 17th lap when Canard picked up the pace and passed him in a high-speed section. Canard led to the last lap when Millsaps made a pass in a right hand turn. Upon exiting the corner, Canard clipped the rear end of Millsaps’ bike and nearly went off the track. It was a simple racing move and unintentional on Millsaps’ part, but it allowed him to open up his biggest lead of the night and win the season opener in impressive fashion.
Dungey passed Barcia on lap 17 to earn the final spot on the podium, while Reed passed Barcia on Lap 18 to claim fourth. The last few laps saw Barcia fall of the pace, where he eventually finished seventh behind Jake Weimer and Andrew Short.
“I am so excited with this win,” said Millsaps. “I have been working really, really hard the last few months and I feel the most comfortable on Suzukis. I rode for Suzuki during the height of my amateur career and the first few years as a factory rider, and I am just comfortable with the RM-Z450.”
“I new I had a chance tonight when I passed Stewart in the heat race,” Millsaps continued. “I am in the best shape of my life, and just felt really, really comfortable. Then when I holeshot the Main and saw that most of the top guys were far behind, I just tried to stay focused on not make any mistakes. I knew that Canard was going to try something at the end, but I think we were both saving a little bit for each other. He rode a good race, and we both rode really clean.”
“I wanted to win this one bad, but I ‘m still really happy with second,” said Canard. “I never would have expected things to turn out the way they did. I really feel that I have a shot at the title this year, and I have a whole new mindset that has really motivated me.”
As for the 2010 champion, Dungey had hoped for a bit more from the night. “Obviously this isn’t the way that I wanted things to turn out, but I’m on the podium and I picked up 20 points. This is a long season and I’m very proud of my team for giving me the equipment to be this competitive. We have made a lot of progress in a relatively short time, and I look forward to this season.”
“I am happy with the way things turned out for my first race back,” said Reed. “I didn’t want to make any huge mistakes out there tonight. I will feel more comfortable with time, but this was a big injury, and some people might have used it as an excuse to retire. I will be back, just give me a little time!”
The 250cc Lites Main event was also dominated by two riders. Eli Tomac holeshot Germany’s Ken Roczen, but was never challenged in the 15-lap main event. Both riders rode a solid race and will no doubt be title contenders barring injury. Cole Seely started fourth but quickly passed Malcolm Stewart for third. The race lacked a lot of highlights, but it clearly defined that Tomac, Roczen and Seely are the ones to beat.
“I had a lot of fun out there tonight, and to be honest, it was pretty easy,” said Tomac. “I just got a clean start and rode my whole pace all night long. It’s fun when there is no pressure and you can just pick your own lines and don’t have to force anything to happen.”
“Tomac was just faster than me tonight,” said Roczen. “I think he adapted better to this track than I did, but second is good for the start of the season.”
“I wish I could have gotten up to speed quicker and battled with the leaders,” said Seely. Once they broke away, I figured that I would play it safe and race for third-place points. There’s a lot of guys who wished they were in my position tonight, so I don’t have any complaints. Next week is a whole other race, and I can redeem myself there.”